The hot new
engine has been given its 30-horsepower boost over the old (the six-cylinder
unit has been discontinued) by the use of two four-throat carburetors rather
than one, a compression ratio increased from 8 to one to 9.25 to one and
modified manifolds to facilitate engine breathing. At idling speed the engine
runs smoothly, without the gasp and burble frequently present with multiple
carburetors, and on the road the smoothness of the short-stroke engine is
With a spin of
the wheels and a chirp from the tires the car surged ahead from a standing
start in the main acceleration runs, and in these exhibited an eagerness that
would be appreciated in any sports car league: zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds
and zero to 100 in 19.4, for example.
A primary reason
for the excellence of these figures lies in the manually operated three-speed
gearbox. Impossible to obtain with the optional automatic transmission, the
speeds name without protest with the use of the hand shift. It is too bad that
Corvette could not have come up with the kind of four-speed box generally found
in European sports cars. As it was, the low gear was a little too low to do the
work of second on a four-speed gearbox, second too low for the work of third,
and the ideal ratio for the hard pull from a dead stop was forgone entirely.
But since any touring model necessarily includes compromises and the cost of a
new four-speed box for the Corvette alone would be very high, this point is one
for future remedy.
The brakes were
effective for two consecutive emergency stops from 100 mph, which is sufficient
for touring purposes. But it is axiomatic that touring car brakes are
inadequate to the demands of racing and lead to sharp disputes with the hay
bales that mark fast-looming corners. Possibly Chevrolet will make available,
as other manufacturers have, a racing brake kit providing better cooling,
larger drums, or another of several solutions.
qualities of the car were good. It will not take an experienced road racer to
travel swiftly and surely in the Corvette; with its tidy 102-inch wheelbase and
chassis improvements, the car responded quickly and recovered naturally.
In the top speed
runs, made over a pair of especially opened 2.5-mile straightaways, the
Corvette traveled north in a mild three-mph wind from south southeast to reach
the best figure—133 mph. Southward the car hit 130 mph for an excellent average
above the 130-mph mark. An optional rear axle ratio of 3.27 to one will be
available, incidentally, and with it the enthusiastic driver will be able to
achieve an even better top speed than with the standard 3.55 to one ratio.
The new Corvette
body shows a few changes from the old. Gone are the jutting taillights and
recessed, mesh-covered headlights. The headlights now project forward slightly.
Formerly unbroken, the side contour of the car now contains a sculptured
depression, outlined with chrome. A push button controls the raising of the
convertible plastic top, and a plastic hardtop that fastens easily and quickly
is available at extra cost. Side windows have replaced side screens; the
crank-up kind are standard, with power-operated windows optional.
Though the weight
of 2,930 pounds with optional radio, heater, power windows and five gallons of
gas is not light for a racing sports car, it is a significantly low figure in a
touring-sports car of this large displacement. It implies good performances in
several departments which are difficult to measure but highly important: brake
loading is relieved, tire wear diminished, cornering improved and fuel
consumption reduced. All these factors, incidentally, become vital when the car
So that is the
new Corvette, in performance and packaging. If SI's experts are correct in
defining a sports car as a lawful road car in which varying degrees of
convenience, accommodation and economy are sacrificed for a performance
demonstrably superior to other current cars of similar displacement, then the
Corvette qualifies with resounding impact.
schedule for the St. Louis assembly plant has been announced, but the car will
be available in small quantities at the end of the month. How soon the average
showroom shopper might be able to drive one away is conjecture—possibly not
until spring. Chevrolet officials said a price scale has not yet been worked
out. For 1955 a middle-range price was $3,250. In 1956 the scale will be
higher, but by how much remains to be seen.